Police attack journalists at JKIA, Nairobi - PHOTOS - Daily Nation

Police attack journalists as they cover Miguna drama at JKIA, Nairobi

Tuesday March 27 2018

Stephen Letoo

Citizen TV reporter Stephen Letoo in pain after he was assaulted by General Service Unit officers at JKIA, Nairobi, on March 26, 2018. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By HARRY MISIKO
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The Kenya Police Service is, once again, on the spot for assaulting and injuring journalists at work — an attack that has been praised by a State House director.

General Service Unit and plainclothes officers, who were behaving like hired goons, on Monday night attacked TV and newspaper reporters and cameramen as they covered the drama that characterised lawyer Miguna Miguna’s return to Kenya from Canada.

CLUBBED

The officers, who were openly unhappy with the media presence as they manhandled and harassed Dr Miguna, turned their anger on members of the Fourth Estate, hurting some.

Nation TV cameraman Robert Gichira was left bleeding and his camera and live broadcast equipment damaged by officers.

A General Service Unit officer clubbed him several times as he ran away with his camera. 

Robert Gichira

Nation TV cameraman Robert Gichira in pain after he was assaulted by police at JKIA on March 26, 2018. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The officer pursued and kicked the journalist several times before screams from other scribes scared him away. 

He was covering the event with reporter Seth Olale when police struck with brute force.

"It is very sad that this is happening to the media in this country," said Mr Olale.

Also to be beaten was Citizen TV reporter Stephen Letoo as he delivered a live link of the drama at the airport.

SLAP

Mr Letoo, who complained of abdominal pains, was later taken to hospital.

"I have been discharged from hospital and feeling better now," Mr Letoo posted on Twitter at 1am.

Stephen Letoo

Citizen TV reporter Stephen Letoo in pain after he was assaulted by General Service Unit officers at JKIA, Nairobi, on March 26, 2018. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

"The force police used to rough up the Media covering #MigunaReturns was uncalled for."

KTN News Senior Reporter Sophia Wanuna was slapped by one of the officers in one of the ugliest scenes of media attacks in the recent past.

But in Facebook and Twitter posts, Dennis Itumbi, State House Secretary Digital, Innovations and Diaspora Communications, saluted police and immigration officials for "a job well done."

In a post titled "Kenyan Police have done well", Mr Itumbi accused the media of breaching rules by filming at the airport.

Stephen Letoo

Citizen TV reporter Stephen Letoo (front right) and his colleagues are pushed into a corner by police at JKIA, Nairobi, on March 26, 2018. PHOTO | COURTESY

"Journalism is not an absolute right," he said. "If a police order is lawfully given, you leave and if you believe it was wrong, challenge it in court."

ITUMBI

Mr Itumbi, who was not at the airport during the attack, claimed the journalists defied police orders.

"On that I must say police did well. You will never see such stuff in other airports. It took a bit long, but great decision," he posted.

NTV cameraman

Nation TV cameraman Robert Gichira was left  bleeding and his camera and live broadcast equipment damaged by officers. PHOTO | COURTESY

" To sum it abit (sic) more bluntly, our economy is far more important than a news item. We cannot allow the broadcast of our Airport in such terms as happened today."

Dr Miguna, who witnessed the attack first-hand, condemned police conduct.

“They have chased the media like rabbits,” he told an Emirates pilot as he refused to leave with his plane.

“They are shooting at the media.”

Leaders on Tuesday condemned the assault, with Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo terming it "unfortunate".

ATTACKS

He called on media houses to take legal action against the concerned officers and their commanders.

Former Law Society of Kenya president Isaac Okero questioned the government's commitment to rule of law and media freedom.

"Journalists went above and beyond tonight, brought us the story. Cops assaulting them is unacceptable and makes nonsense of GoK commitment to the Constitution. Pole @StevoLetoo. @SophiaWanuna of @KTNNews demonstrated special 'war correspondent' skills. #MigunaReturns," he tweeted.

Kenyan media has been under siege since Jubilee took the reins of power in March 2013.

Mr Kenyatta's regime first initiated and a Jubilee-dominated Parliament passed several anti-media laws, including the one that slaps hefty fines and penalties on media houses and individual journalists for breaches.

Several journalists were injured when goons and police attacked journalists covering the return of Mr Odinga from the West.

And when some TV stations covered his mock swearing-in on January 30, the government descended on them with a sledge hammer, closing four four several days.

This had never happened in Kenya's independence history.

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